Geologic Map of the Santa Barbara Coastal Plain Area, Santa Barbara County, California

Scientific Investigations Map 3001

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This report presents a newly revised and expanded digital geologic map of the Santa Barbara coastal plain area at a compilation scale of 1:24,000 (one inch on the map to 2,000 feet on the ground)1 and with a horizontal positional accuracy of at least 20 m. The map depicts the distribution of bedrock units and surficial deposits and associated deformation underlying and adjacent to the coastal plain within the contiguous Dos Pueblos Canyon, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria 7.5' quadrangles. The new map supersedes an earlier preliminary geologic map of the central part of the coastal plain (Minor and others, 2002; revised 2006) that provided coastal coverage only within the Goleta and Santa Barbara quadrangles. In addition to new mapping to the west and east, geologic mapping in parts of the central map area has been significantly revised from the preliminary map compilation - especially north of downtown Santa Barbara in the Mission Ridge area - based on new structural interpretations supplemented by new biostratigraphic data. All surficial and bedrock map units, including several new units recognized in the areas of expanded mapping, are described in detail in the accompanying pamphlet. Abundant new biostratigraphic and biochronologic data based on microfossil identifications are presented in expanded unit descriptions of the marine Neogene Monterey and Sisquoc Formations. Site-specific fault kinematic observations embedded in the digital map database are more complete owing to the addition of slip-sense determinations. Finally, the pamphlet accompanying the present report includes an expanded and refined summary of stratigraphic and structural observations and interpretations that are based on the composite geologic data contained in the new map compilation. The Santa Barbara coastal plain is located in the western Transverse Ranges physiographic province along an east-west-trending segment of the southern California coastline about 100 km (62 mi) northwest of Los Angeles. The coastal plain surface includes several mesas and hills that are geomorphic expressions of potentially active folds and partly buried oblique and reverse faults of the Santa Barbara fold and fault belt (SBFFB) that transects the coastal plain. Strong earthquakes have occurred offshore within 10 km of the Santa Barbara coastal plain in 1925 (6.3 magnitude), 1941 (5.5 magnitude), and 1978 (5.1 magnitude). These and numerous smaller seismic events located beneath and offshore of the coastal plain, likely occurred on reverse-oblique-slip faults that are similar to, or continuous with, Quaternary reverse faults crossing the coastal plain. Thus, faults of the SBFFB pose a significant earthquake hazard to the approximately 200,000 people living within the major coastal population centers of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria. In addition, numerous Quaternary landslide deposits along the steep southern flank of the Santa Ynez Mountains indicate the potential for continued slope failures and mass movements in developed areas. Folded, faulted, and fractured sedimentary rocks in the subsurface of the coastal plain and adjacent Santa Barbara Channel are sources and form reservoirs for economic deposits of oil and gas, some of which are currently being extracted offshore. Shallow, localized sedimentary aquifers underlying the coastal plain provide limited amounts of water for the urban areas, but the quality of some of this groundwater is compromised by coastal salt-water contamination. The present map compilation provides a set of uniform geologic digital coverages that can be used for analysis and interpretation of these and other geologic hazards and resources in the coastal plain region.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geologic Map of the Santa Barbara Coastal Plain Area, Santa Barbara County, California
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Map
Series number:
Supersedes OFR 02-136
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Earth Surface Processes Team
Report: iv, 38 p.; Map: 77 x 44 inches; Downloads Directory
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